Narendra Modi's ‘Mann Ki Baat’ unravels relevance of Karthumbi umbrellas

Two months before the monsoon season, the women started handcrafting umbrellas in their huts after receiving raw materials from Mumbai.
Tribal children playing in the rain holding Karthumbi umbrellas
Tribal children playing in the rain holding Karthumbi umbrellas Photo | Express

KOCHI: One of the stars of the 111th episode of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ was a humble umbrella made by the tribal women of Attappadi. This was the first broadcast of the monthly radio programme after it was halted for the general election.

PM Modi was all praise for the tribal community. “Karthumbi umbrellas are made in Palakkad district of Kerala. These multi-coloured umbrellas are a sight to behold. And the thing that makes these umbrellas unique is the fact that they are manufactured by the tribal sisters from Kerala."

He pointed out that the need for umbrellas is increasing every year. “Karthumbi umbrellas can be bought from anywhere in the country via online.”

Referring to the Vattalakki Agriculture Cooperative Society, under whose aegis the umbrellas are made, Modi said, “It is also heartening to know that this society is run by women. This is a business model established by Attappadi’s tribal women. One that can be emulated." Today, Karthumbi umbrellas are on their way from being a business run out of a small hamlet in Kerala to being a big multinational company, the PM added.

He highlighted that nothing could be more suitable than Karthumbi as an example of the ‘Vocal For Local’ endeavour. Around 50-60 tribal women are involved in making Karthumbi umbrellas, and the collective is part of the social empowerment initiative of Thampu, an organisation engaged in projects involving tribal communities. Peace Collective, an online community with members from different parts of the world, is also part of the initiative.

A woman making the umbrellas
A woman making the umbrellasPhoto | Express

Each worker makes around 20-30 umbrellas daily, for which they earn Rs 600-800. The umbrellas are currently sold for Rs 350-390 each on various e-commerce websites. This year, Thampu expanded its impact by training 360 women in umbrella making, with 50 women actively involved in the making of umbrellas. Though around 15,000 umbrellas are produced on an annual basis, last year sales dipped to 12,000 due to lack of funds for marketing. This monsoon, the collective is confident of selling 15,000-20,000 umbrellas.

Two months before the monsoon season, the women started handcrafting umbrellas in their huts after receiving raw materials from Mumbai. The products were then moved to a shared facility in Agali and collected by organisations like Progressive Techies for marketing and distribution.

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